FAQ: How the 2022 FIFA World Cup works

The World Cup is imminent. The schedule is complete. The leagues have stopped. The players have arrived. But even with sides knowing where to be and who to play against, there are still many questions about how things will play out when football takes center stage in Qatar later in the month. Here’s a primer.

What is the World Cup?

The World Cup, a four-yearly tournament in which the best national football teams compete for the title of world champion, is the world’s premier sporting event. (To discuss.)

Where is the World Cup taking place?

This year’s host is Qatar, who defeated the United States and Japan in 2010 to win the right to hold the tournament. Whether this was an honest competition remains controversial.

That’s unusual.

The World Cup has never been held on the Arabian Peninsula, and with good reason.

When is the World Cup?

The tournament will open on Sunday when Qatar plays Ecuador. That counts as a slow day; Four games will be played on most days over the next two weeks. The tournament ends with the finals on December 18th, when the winner receives a very heavy (and surprisingly small) gold trophy.

Is a Winter World Cup normal?

no The World Cup is usually held in July – or was held until Qatar won the right to host it. Originally, Qatar said it would hold the tournament in its normal summer window, although temperatures can reach 120 degrees; it brushed aside any suggestion that it couldn’t be done using cooling technology that didn’t exist at the time. In 2015, world football’s governing body, FIFA, finally concluded that summer temperatures could have unpleasant consequences for fans and players – lethargy, heat stroke, death, etc. – and agreed to move the tournament to the relatively more tolerable months of November and December.

So Qatar is going to be nice and cool?

no Temperatures in Qatar at this time of year generally hover around 80 degrees, not unlike a traditional World Cup. (Were you in Manaus, Brazil in July?) But organizers have tried to circumvent this uncomfortable situation by installing systems designed to cool the air to a manageable 68 degrees in seven of Qatar’s eight outdoor stadiums.

Students work on paintings depicting soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Pele, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane and Diego Maradona ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar outside an art school in Mumbai, India November 18, 2022. (Reuters Photo : Niharika Kulkarni)

I’m still confused about the dates. Doesn’t that mess up the normal football calendar?

Oh, the leagues grumbled. A lot of. But they lost.

The move will not only disrupt league competitions worldwide, but also the lucrative Champions League, football’s richest club competition, and has already resulted in earlier season starts, compressed schedules and much hand-wringing. It also means Fox Sports, which paid hundreds of millions of dollars for the broadcast rights in the United States, will have to squeeze a month of football games around another fall sport that tends to demand attention at this time of year. Ever heard of the NFL?

Qatar is so small. How can it accommodate all these similarities?

It is true that Qatar is tiny; At 4,416 square miles, it is 0.12% the size of the United States and by far the smallest nation to ever host a World Cup. All matches take place in a tight circle of eight stadiums in and around the capital, Doha, making it the most compact World Cup in history.

How many teams take part in the World Cup?

thirty two. Qatar automatically qualified to host and after years of games – including some bonus months thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – the other 31 teams earned the right to come and play. (That number will increase to 48 teams in 2026 at the next World Cup, to be held at the much larger properties of Mexico, Canada and the United States.)

This is a men’s tournament. what about women

The women have their own World Cup. The next will take place in Australia and New Zealand in 2023. You have already made the draw for it.

I feel stupid saying “soccer” when most of the world calls it “soccer”.

It is an American burden, or an example of an American emergency, to use a different word to describe the sport than almost any other country in the English-speaking world. Americans, of course, have their own game of soccer, but for World Cup purposes, you’re allowed to say “soccer” instead of “soccer.” What you shouldn’t do is tell other people what to call it. That just makes you an idiot.

How about “null” for “zero” and “pitch” for “field”?

Do it. But if you’re American, don’t be surprised if people walk away from you in the bar.

Football Soccer – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Preview, Doha, Qatar – November 18, 2022 People in a boat on the Corniche promenade are pictured ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Explain how the tournament works.

The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four, identified by the letters AH. In the group stage that opens the tournament, each team plays all other teams in its group once. The top two in each group advance to the round of 16. After that, the world championship is a pure knockout tournament.

Talk to me about group stage math.

Three points are awarded for a win, one point for a draw and none for a loss. This can result in teams within the same group finishing with the same score.

What if the teams finish tied?

If there is a tie within the group, you will be introduced to the glorious tie concept of goal difference. It’s the difference between the number of goals a team scores and the number they concede. So victory (or defeat) can be great insurance or crippling catastrophe. When points or goal difference don’t break a tie in a group, there are even more complications. Don’t worry about those for now.

How can I watch the World Cup in the USA?

The tournament will be broadcast in English on Fox and FS1 and in Spanish on Telemundo. You can stream it live on Peacock (in Spanish; the first 12 games are free) or on streaming services that broadcast Fox and FS1, such as SlingTV, Fubo and Vidgo. Or you can follow along on social media services like Twitter if they’re still in business in December.

When are the games held?

Qatar is five hours ahead of London, New York is eight hours and Los Angeles is eleven hours ahead. This is the same time zone as Moscow. So, whatever strategy you used to get up early (or stay up late) for the games when Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup will most likely work this time as well. But it means some games on the East Coast of the United States will kick off before dawn and the afternoon games in Qatar will start at 10pm.

And don’t be afraid of long pregame shows where you tune in at the announced game time and the studio crew talks for 25 minutes: At the World Cup, the games kick off when FIFA schedules it.

Who are the favourites?

Brazil, France, England and Spain are the oddsmakers’ favourites, followed by Argentina, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The usual suspects qualified so quickly that our football columnist Rory Smith wrote last November that “there’s a good chance the winner is already there”. After all, only eight countries have ever won a World Cup, and seven are back in the field. (Sorry Italy. See you next time. Maybe.)

Wait, Italy isn’t playing?

No, Italy failed to qualify for the second consecutive cycle for the second year in a row, despite the Italians being the reigning European champions after winning in 2021. Oops.

That’s sad.

Yes it is.

Any other significant no shows?

Sweden, Nigeria, Chile and Colombia all failed to qualify. And Russia, who reached the quarter-finals as hosts in 2018, were banned from all competitions by FIFA after invading Ukraine that year.

Who is the USA playing against?

After the humiliation of not qualifying for the 2018 tournament, the Americans are back with a new generation of players. They were placed in Group B, an intriguing group with England, Iran and Wales. The United States meets Wales on Monday, England next Friday and Iran on November 29.

Has the United States ever beat England in a World Cup?

Yes, in a dramatic upheaval in 1950 that is still being talked about. The two teams met a second time in South Africa in 2010; This game ended in a tie thanks to a goalkeeping error that was either comical or devastating depending on your interests.

Have Wales ever been to the World Cup?

Once, 1958.

You won’t win then, will you?

Probably not.

Any good early matchups to watch?

Qatar play Ecuador in the opening game, the hosts’ first World Cup game and a potential herald of their experience. Day two of the tournament will see England v Iran and the United States v Wales, but that’s just a taste of the group’s headline game: USA v England on Black Friday. Lionel Messi and Argentina play Mexico a day later, and the day after (November 27) there is a heavyweight clash between Spain and Germany.

What do I keep hearing about the “group of death”?

At each World Cup, one of the groups is informally referred to as the Death Group, meaning it has the strongest teams and will therefore theoretically be engaged in some sort of gladiatorial combat. No consensus emerged this time. And in the end nobody dies anyway, so maybe we should stop using that term.

Are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leaving?

Yes and yes!

Who won’t be there?

Erling Haaland, for example. (Norway did not qualify.) Mohamed Salah. (Egypt lost to Senegal on penalties for the second time in a month.) A multitude of injured players. Oh, and thousands and thousands of fans who have been either overpriced or put off by Qatar’s human rights record and FIFA’s brazen play for as much money as it can squeeze out of them.

Is there prize money at the World Cup?

Fame, honor and the reverence of your country are a type of reward. But there is also a huge pile of cash. This year, the winning team will take home $42 million, part of a $440 million prize pool. How much of that actually goes to individual players is another story.

Written by Sarah Lyall and Andrew Das. This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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